By CHRIS SCHUTZ
The needs of a family without enough food or warm clothes become painfully obvious to staff of Skyline Urban Ministry, says Claudia Lovelace, executive director of the United Methodist-related agency in south Oklahoma City.
During one family’s visit to Skyline, she saw a child tear hungrily into a slice of bread, relishing it as much as a piece of candy.
She reminds staff members to question any child who comes in on a cold day wearing only light clothes. "Ask him where his coat is."
On a trip to Skyline, a family might leave with a supply of groceries plus a coat for the child.
Rev. Lovelace and her staff are celebrating the recent ribbon-cutting of an expansive new Food Resource Center at Skyline’s campus, 500 S.E. 15 St. Completion of this building project, a collaboration with the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, consolidates Skyline’s programs under one roof.
The $933,633 project was funded through a building campaign, a donation from the Oklahoma Conference, and a $150,000 grant from the Regional Food Bank, said Brandy Conrad, director of the Food Resource Center.
The project added 6,931 square feet to the Skyline facility, bringing it to a total of 10,959 square feet, Conrad said.
Clients previously had to go to a separate site, at 701 N.W. Eighth, to get donated food. Skyline has sold that property, an old church, to St. Anthony Hospital.
The well-stocked Food Resource Center is arranged like a small grocery store, with boxes and cans of food neatly lined up on shelves. Rather than receive a pre-selected box of provisions, clients pick what they need and like to eat. This system is called a "choice pantry."
Clients also can choose from baskets of fresh produce such as jalapeno peppers, onions, and oranges. Frozen foods are displayed in glass-fronted freezer cases at one side of the store.
The arrangement is popular with clients, Lovelace said. "All women like to shop."
During a tour of the new space after the ribbon-cutting ceremony Nov. 13, guests noted quart-size plastic bags of dry beans and rice on the shelves. Those represented the work of young volunteers from OKC-Southern Hills United Methodist Church.
The children portioned out the food from 50-pound bags as part of a service project. The rice and bean packaging is one of the few ways children are allowed to volunteer their services, Lovelace said, due to age restrictions.
A Food Resource Center client must show a form of photo identification, along with some type of identification for each person in the household, before shopping. Clients may visit up to six times a year.
Skyline’s Food Resource Center serves people from a wide area, but especially those who live nearby in a part of Oklahoma City that is considered a "food desert."
Conrad said a food desert is defined as an area without a grocery store within a 5-mile radius.
The Food Resource Center is open from 1 to 4:30 p.m. on Mondays and Fridays, from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and from 1 to 6:30 p.m. on Wednesdays.
Volunteers to help with stocking food and shopping with clients are always needed, Conrad said.
During a visit to Skyline, clients with referrals can get free clothes at 9 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Referrals can be made by a school counselor, church staff, or aid agency personnel on official letterhead of the referring agency.
On other weekdays, a shopper without a referral can select clothes at a price of 50 cents per item, from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m.
"This is a clothes closet for the community," Lovelace said. "It’s there to help the community."
Skyline’s service extends beyond feeding the hungry. The ministry’s key values are: dignity first, end stereotypes, and the Golden Rule, according to its website.
Among other services:
See related story: Skyline director named outstanding OCU graduate
An eye clinic staffed by optometrists who volunteer. Last year, 1,100 eye exams were performed. The clinic accepts donated frames; lenses cannot be reused, Conrad said.
A selection of prom dresses for high school students.
New coats for children, as well as hats and gloves.
School supplies and uniforms are distributed.
The Prime Timers program offers fellowship and meals for senior citizens.
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